Shukee Begum went to Syria with her five children to be with her jihadi husband Jamal al-Harith, a former Guantánamo Bay detainee.
Shukee, a British citizen, fled Islamic State with her five children after traveling to Syria to be with her husband has told of her experience of life under the group’s rule to Channel 4 News UK, describing the “gangster mentality” among supporters as “not my cup of tea”.
“I would love to go back to the UK,” said the 33-year-old Brit.
“The UK is my home. I grew up there, my friends are there my family are there. That is where I consider to be home but I am just not sure at the moment of the track record of the current government if the UK is somewhere I can come back to and achieve justice.”
Begum left Manchester and traveled to Syria with her children to find her husband, Jamal al-Harith, a former Guantánamo Bay detainee who left the UK 18 months ago.
But months after joining him, the dangerous reality set in, Begum and her children, aged nine, seven, five, three and 11 months, were forced to flee Isis-controlled territory and were held for a time by smugglers in Syria’s war-torn city of Aleppo.
Speaking about the reasons why she left the UK to join al-Harith, she said: “He’s my husband and all of a sudden he’s not there. It didn’t feel like home any more. I was trying to manage school runs, things like that.”
“I was thinking about the children’s futures. Was he part of it? Will he come back? All these things go through your mind.”
Begum insists she had never been a supporter of Isis, she said that she had taken her children to Syria because her husband was a family man, adding: “For me to take the children to see him and then come away from there that would have been more powerful than anything else I had to say to him at the time.”
Begum said: “You have got hundreds of families living in one hall and sharing perhaps one or two bathrooms between them. You have got children crying, children who are sick.”
“There was a gangster kind of mentality among single women there. Violence was talked about, war, killing. They would sit together, huddle around their laptops, watch Isis videos. It just wasn’t my cup of tea.”
Begum said that she asked her husband to help her get out, to no avail, and permission to leave was denied by Isis courts.
“This is what I want to make clear as well to other women thinking of coming into Isis territory – that you can’t just expect to come into Isis territory and then expect that you can just leave again easily. There is no personal autonomy there at all.”